The idea of choosing a website domain for your business can be daunting and give you sleepless nights. The very fact that traditionally you only get one chance to brand your business via your domain name adds to the pressure. There are a number of issues to take into consideration when choosing a website domain name for your business. However, if you look at the various considerations in isolation this can reduce the pressure, make things a little clearer and allow you to register that perfect website domain name.
Make it short and memorable
Everybody will suggest that you have to make your domain name “memorable” which is easy in theory but not so easy in practice. Before you even begin to let your mind wander to brand names for your website/business here are a number of very basic issues to remember.
Keep it short and memorable
The longer your domain name the less chance people will remember it and they could even make mistakes when manually entering your URL. You will notice that the vast majority of successful domain names are short, eye-catching and above all easy to remember. If you have a relatively long business name, although not really advisable, you could look at an abbreviated domain name taking in the first letter of each word. However, there are relatively few scenarios where you could advise using this method. Keep it short and keep it sweet…
Avoid using numbers and hyphens
You may well notice that a number of older domain names will use hyphens and some may even use numbers. The main reason for this tended to be because the unhyphenated domain names had already been taken. In the modern era, using numbers and hyphens in your domain name is frowned upon. If you know a company name it is easy just to type one word after another as opposed to adding hyphens and numbers. Make it a simple as possible for your potential customers to find and ultimately remember you.
Avoid homophones/slang words at all costs
In the past we have seen trends where people have used homophones in their domain name sometimes to look hip and trendy and other times to try and stand out. However, if for example you decide to use the word “thyme” in your domain name, many people may spell this as “time”. This is just one example but you get the message. Keep it simple, keep it on subject and ensure it is memorable. There is similar reasoning behind the use of slang words in domain names because it is not always obvious how to spell them.
Exact match domains
In some ways the jury is out regarding exact match domains because while historically they have had a positive impact on SEO this is not necessarily the case today. The fact is, no one outside of Google really knows how the algorithms work, whether they do give SEO benefits to exact match domains but aside from this, they can be memorable. In this context, exact match domains tend to be more product/service led, for example bestcreditcards.com which says what it does on the tin.
Trust and conversion benefits
There is a train of thought which suggests that exact match domains do encourage greater trust and potentially higher conversion rates. There is probably some truth in this idea because if you are looking for a particular service or the “best of” then a domain which exactly reflects what you are thinking will catch your eye. The potential benefits from a trust/conversion angle will diminish the greater the length of your domain name because it just gets confusing and can look ridiculous.
At some stage you are likely to come across pay per click (PPC) advertising which can be a game changer for many businesses. Research does show that exact match domains help with PPC awareness and conversion rates because, again, you can relate the website domain to what you are thinking and what you are looking for. In some cases, not only will surfers be more likely to click on an exact match domain PPC advert but they may also be more likely to buy when they land on your website.
Consider the countries you want to target
In years gone by the .com top-level domain (TLD) extension was for many people the jewel in the crown. There is also evidence to suggest that .com websites have attracted higher rankings from the likes of Google in the past. The situation has changed of late with the introduction of an array of new domain name extensions, many of which relate to professions such as .accountant. However, when looking at domain name extensions and specific country focus, you should consider:
If for example your initial focus is on the EU market then it is understandable if you decide to go for a .eu domain name. Surfers will see your brand name and reference to .eu and appreciate you are EU-based and trading in the EU. However, what happens if you decide to expand into Germany in the future which has a .de domain name extension?
Is it really feasible to set up and maintain .eu and .de websites? If you are looking at international expansion in years to come then perhaps a .com domain may prove a better fit? Alternatively, at more recent general top-level domains (gTLD) such as .tech or .app. They are definitely worth considering because users will know exactly what the site is about even before clicking. There is no reference to a particular country, more of a focus on what you do.
While many people make a living acquiring variations of existing domain names which are often based on companies, this can often be illegal. When looking at any domain name you should do your research to see whether there are any other companies with a similar name and/or websites. At the end of the day, it is commercial suicide to set up a website/business with an identical or similar name to an existing entity. You shouldn’t even entertain such a potentially confusing scenario.
Some of the legal issues to consider include:
From time to time you will come across domain names which quite literally seem “too good to be true”. This will prompt questions as to why other people have not acquired the domain name or perhaps you have just been lucky. However, after further research you may find that certain domain names are trademarked and the acquisition of that domain will likely trigger legal action. This can be extremely expensive and could undo all of your branding investment further down the line if you are forced to change name.
In a similar vein, you may come across domain names which are covered by copyright legislation. You will find that large global companies will hound you with legal action if they feel you are looking to benefit from their brand and their company name in any shape or form. Such legal action and potential compensation can be expensive and lead to severe disruption for your business.
Buy the domain before setting up the company
It may seem a little obvious to suggest that you should buy the domain name of your company before you actually set up the company. Believe it or not, we have seen instances in the past where companies have been set up, paperwork delivered to the relevant authorities but the exact match domain name not acquired until further down the line. You will be surprised at what lengths domain name hijackers will go to for their next buck!
Avoid domain name hijackers at all costs
Some domain name hijackers will monitor the setting up of new companies and check whether the relevant domain names have been registered. They may also read about potential company name changes or spin-offs from large conglomerates where additional domain names will be required.
The Internet is littered with instances where exact match company domain names have not been available to the underlying companies, when they finally get around to buying them. You may legally hold the trademark/copyright but if the domain name hijacker lives in a foreign land it may be expensive to pursue them through the courts and it will take time. In this scenario, we have seen many companies held to ransom.
Check the history of existing domains
There is every chance that from time to time you will come across existing domain names which have dropped/expired or are for sale. While there is every chance that you could grab yourself a bargain and an established domain name, you should also carry out preliminary checks.
The Whois service allows you to find out the history behind any domain name, where it is based and (subject to data protection) the underlying holder. If a website has changed hands on numerous occasions in the past then you may need to do further research to see why. Have there been any search engine issues? Could the site be blacklisted?
The Wayback Machine is an online service which takes a snapshot of all websites over previous months and years. It is therefore possible to look back over a significant length of time to see what the website looked like, the published content and how it changed over the years. This could alert you to potential problems with search engines which may mean that the purchase of the domain could be detrimental to your business development.
Other factors to consider
There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a domain name and actually registering and maintaining your website. These include:
Buy the domain yourself
In the past we have seen many instances where companies have worked with their hosting/marketing advisers to acquire domains. If the domain is registered in the name of your hosting company or marketing advisers, even though it is legal yours, you may have problems transferring if you end your working relationship or the company goes under. It is therefore vital that from day one you register a domain in your name/company name. You need to have control of your domain names at all times.
Social media handles
Once you decide upon your domain/company name it is very easy for the euphoria to kick in and unfortunately you may fail to finish the process. Especially where you are looking at a branded business website you should look to register your branded social media handles as soon as possible. Can you imagine investing your hard-earned cash and time into building a brand name only to find that a third party owns and uses your social media handles.
Lock your domain name
Locking your domain name is a service offered by domain name registrars which effectively protects you from domain name hijackers who may obtain your passwords and other login details. You physically need to unlock your domain name before it can be transferred to any third party.
Auto-renew domain registrations
It is advisable to keep a very close eye on domain name expiry dates so that you can renew those which you need going forward. In theory it should be relatively straightforward to monitor the expiry dates but issues can arise if you change email addresses, bank account or perhaps you are unavailable for a prolonged period of time. As a consequence, it would be useful to select the auto-renew option for domain names which you will be using in the longer term.
There are many different issues to consider when choosing a website domain name for your business. This includes memorability, legal issues etc. Not to mention, avoiding element of confusion or doubts in spelling and so on. We hope you have found this article useful and good luck with your journey.